UN urges world to act now to combat 'looming water crisis'
We need to wake up to the looming water crisis.
"That's what World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said Tuesday to mark the publication of a new report, which shows that as the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency intensifies floods and droughts, access to clean water is expected to become even more unequal—increasing the importance of sustainable resource management.
2021 State of Climate Services: Water—compiled by the WMO, the weather branch of the United Nations, with input from more than 20 international organizations—finds that most countries are ill-prepared to handle the forecasted surge in what one reporter called "too much and too little water."
The report urges policymakers to "reduce the impacts of water-related disasters" and improve outcomes by swiftly ramping up investments in a variety of solutions, including "better climate services and end-to-end early warning systems."
"The water is draining out of the tub in some places, while it's overflowing in others," Maxx Dilley, director of the WMO Climate Programme, told Inside Climate News. "When scientists were starting to get a handle on what climate change was going to mean, an acceleration of the hydrological cycle was one of the things that was considered likely."
According to the report:
- In the past 20 years, terrestrial water storage—the summation of all water on the land surface and in the subsurface, including soil moisture, snow and ice—has been lost at a rate of 1cm per year;
- In 2018, 2.3 billion people were living in countries under water stress and 3.6 billion people faced inadequate access to water at least one month per year. By 2050, the latter is expected to be more than five billion;
- Meanwhile, water-related hazards have increased in frequency for the past 20 years. Since 2000, flood-related disasters have increased by 134%, and the number and duration of droughts also increased by 29%; and
- Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is vital to achieving long-term social, economic and environmental well-being. But, although most countries have advanced their level of IWRM implementation, 107 countries remain off track to hit the goal of sustainably managing their water resources by 2030.
- Invest in IWRM as a solution to better manage water stress, especially in SIDS and LDCs;
- Invest in end-to-end drought and flood early warning systems in at-risk LDCs, including for drought warning in Africa and flood warning in Asia;
- Fill the capacity gap in collecting data for basic hydrological variables which underpin climate services and early warning systems;
- Improve the interaction among national level stakeholders to co-develop and operationalize climate services with information users to better support adaptation in the water sector. There is also a pressing need for better monitoring and evaluation of socio-economic benefits, which will help to showcase best practices;
- Fill the data gaps for climate services in the water sector. Members' data on climate services for water is missing from 65 WMO Members and particularly from SIDS; and
- Join the Water and Climate Coalition. This is organized by WMO in response to the need for integrated policy developments and improved practical solutions. The coalition provides countries with support to improve assessment of water resources as well as forecasting and outlook services for water.
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